REVIEW: ORPHAN X
This is a milestone in my short blogging career. A review of an actual book. No pictures! Just words cover to cover. Some of them big words too. To a degree I will read anything. My go to genre is espionage thrillers.
My go to guy in that genre is Robert Ludlum. It all started with the Bourne trilogy and now I am slowly going through his entire body of work. Recently whilst looking online for the next book to knock off the list another book kept appearing on under similar items and recommendations. That book was Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz. I stopped reading the Bourne books which are now being written by Eric Van Lustbader because I felt the character was getting too old. Yet with the popularity of the movies he was still on high octane adventures. So basically I’m looking to trade in for a younger, fitter model! I knew the name Greg Hurwitz from comics, mainly Wolverine. Seeing as it was priced at £3:99 it made sense to give it a try.
Before the story even begins Hurwitz puts you in a positive mood. How? With a very simply yet affective idea. He just lists all the characters that have inspired his work on this book and I guess were his heroes growing up. What this list does is put you in the right mood for the adventure you are about to read. Also by the time you have finished the book it will become clear Orphan X himself Evan Smoak is worthy of joining such a list. I have posted a picture of the list on my Instagram (ianwells87).It’s clear Hurwitz is a fanboy. Inserted in the the story are lots of nods and winks to geek culture. The story starts at a good pace.
A flashback prologue sets up the orphan element without getting bogged down into too much detail. Just some tonal touches for the main character. Then the story cuts to the present and these early chapters add skeletal structure to Evan Smoak. They are short sharp chapters that outline a normal day for Evan. Firmly establishing the reader in his world. The second chapter is even called ‘The Fortress of Solitude’ and it is just a walk through of Evans tricked out apartment. The weaponry and tech jargon never gets to deep and detract from the story and that is a compliment as it is so highly detailed. At the back of the book Hurwitz lists all the people who helped him research Evans world. Ranging from hand to hand fighting styles, armourers and property experts in LA. All these people add to make Evans world seem very real. There is one chapter that is just a single fight between Evan and the main antagonist. The pacing is brilliant and it paints a vivid picture as you read it. I read online that a movie is already in development with Bradley Cooper attached. When I read the first two chapters Ryan Gosling popped into my head. Partly because of the single mother and son Evan strikes up a relationship of sorts with in his apartment building. Partly too because of the way he carries himself. Part of the reason stories and characters like this, Jason Bourne and Jack Reacher work is the writer knowing the characters like they are real. Knowing what buttons to push. In this story like others in the genre it is set out early how highly skilled Evan is.
Gregg Hurwitz then takes Evan to places he would least like to be. He makes him go against all his training. In the story during the flashbacks to Evans training we discover he works by ten commandments. Then over the course of the story he must break these to find a solution to the situation he now finds himself. Its an effective device to tell stories. I know when Michael Bendis was writing Daredevil he always wanted to start a story where Daredevil would least like to be. Orphan X offers up an interesting blend. It is not a straight forward espionage thriller in the vein of a Robert Ludlum story. Between completing his training and the start of this book Evan has turned hi back on black ops work and now offers his service to those less fortunate than him. So in that regard it is more in line with a Jack Reacher than a Jason Bourne. The flashbacks offer up more of the espionage world and moving forward there is room for scope here. The flashbacks could be a novel to themselves but it is better getting snippets of his past as he tackles new problems in the world he has created for himself. The supporting characters don’t feel two dimensional or genre tropes. They aren’t fleshed out massively but they are fleshed out enough to interact in their unique ways with Evan.
On the font cover there is a quote from author David Baldacci, it says; “Read this book. You will thank me later.” I guess I have to say thank you to David Baldacci. But of course the biggest praise should go to Gregg Hurwitz. He has created a character that can stand toe to toe with Joe Pike, Jack Reacher and most importantly for me feel the void left by and ageing Jason Bourne. Evan Smoak is a worthy successor in that regard and I will definitely be picking up the next book The Nowhere Man and look forward to many more stories to come. Cheers Gregg (Clink expensive Vodka).
About Ian Wells
Ian currently runs the THEBLOGOFCOMICSHOTTOPICS blog. Check him out on Twitter @IanWells87.
About Language of Bromance
Together Richard and Shawn formed the podcast The Language of Bromance and from there it has been nothing but fun. The duo laugh about things they go through, stories in the news and even getting serious discussing net neutrality along with other issues. Every so often their friendship turns to a bitter rivalry with their nerdiest creation the draft episodes. An original take on a best of or a top 10 list. The draft episodes are done like an NFL Draft 7 rounds where Richard and Shawn flip-flop picks on various topics.
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